Blindspotting Gets the TV Treatment

Family chaos and Bay Area love highlight the TV adaption of an acclaimed film

Family chaos and Bay Area love highlight the TV adaption of an acclaimed film

While Rafael Casal had never thought about adapting his 2018 movie Blindspotting into a series, what he and filmmaking partner Daveed Diggs (Hamilton, Snowpiercer) had created was a world they knew they could play in forever. Yet, when approached about expanding the world of childhood friends Collin (Diggs) and Miles (Casal), their immediate reaction was, “No, thanks.”

“We assumed it meant we had to pick up a story about Collin and Miles, which we just didn’t have an interest in doing,” Casal explains. “I mean, how are we going to top that?” But when they arrived at the idea of centring a series around Miles’ long-term girlfriend Ashley, the universe they’d previously envisioned for an indie flick suddenly felt like fertile ground again.

In the opening minutes of Blindspotting—the series—Miles is arrested and sent to prison, leaving Ashley and his son Sean in dire straits. “Her whole entire world has been turned upside down and this life that she has been fighting to create for her family, and especially for her son, has been taken away from her,” says Jasmine Cephas Jones, who reprises her role from the original film. “She has to move back into her old neighbourhood and move in with Miles’ mother and half-sister. We really learn how Ashley navigates this new life that she did not ask for.”

Casal’s touch is all over the show, as showrunner, producer, writer and director. Yet those who saw the film might be surprised to find out that Miles—at least at the beginning of the series—appears largely absent from the narrative. In this case, Casal isn’t worried about subverting expectations. “People who haven’t seen the movie, which will be most people who watch this show, won’t know anything else about him, except what’s presented right away,” says Casal. “What we need to know about Ashley, at the top of the show, is that she just lost something very important to her and that it’s a complicated feeling. It sets us on a great path, with a new character who’s a mother dealing with the absence of the person that she trusts the most. I think that’s a really interesting person to drop in on.”

While Miles is physically away from his family, he is never far from Ashley’s thoughts, making appearances when you least expect it. “The relationship between Ashley and Miles, it’s a very old-school kind of love,” says Jones. “We find out in the show that Ashley has had a lot of early growing up, and Miles protected her and helped her through these situations. When a partner like that is taken away from you, you really see Ashley trying to make these decisions on her own, and what is she going to do? It was really important for Rafael and I to show how strong their love is. We wanted to create a love story that doesn’t break.”

A new addition to this family is Oscar-winner Helen Hunt, who portrays Rainey, mother of Miles and his half-sister, Trish (Jaylen Barron). Casal considers Hunt a real coup for the show. “She’s such a masterful actor. She’s shaped the way that we’ve thought about stories and heroes and protagonists and our morality, based on roles that she champions,” says Casal. “Her as Trish’s mom is interesting. One of [my Black friends] has a white mom, and it’s an interesting dynamic. Their lives are totally different, and yet they exist in the same spaces. I feel like I saw that a lot growing up, and I’m excited to see that kind of love in a show that everyone has access to.”

This somewhat-chaotic family dynamic is something Ashley will now have to settle into, which is challenging for a woman who’s used to believing it’s her against the world. “Ashley’s blindspot is that she has to do everything alone,” says Jones. “I think by the end of the show, she realizes she has a great support system. It’s not perfect, but everybody is in this with her. It shows you how important family is and the many aspects of what family means.”

For Casal and Diggs, Blindspotting—whether movie or series—is a love letter to the Bay Area, where the two grew up. This, to Casal, means that the material to cull from is endless, especially if there are more seasons to come. “When you’re making a film about the area that you come from, there’s never enough time to get through all the characters of your life,” he says. “A television show allows us to have expanding worlds, where you can keep introducing characters and diving into the things that make the place really special—and that’s exciting.”

Blindspotting airs Sundays at 1:35 a.m. on Starz 2 and streams on Crave